When exquisite bronze figures began flooding the antiquities market in the late 1920s, nobody knew much about them. Artworks of people and animals, embossed bronze cups, and delicate pins thrilled dealers, who were awed by their beauty. Inquiries were made about their origins, but answers were somewhat vague. Rather than name a specific settlement or civilization, dealers would only indicate a region in the Zagros Mountains: Luristan (located in western Iran and known today as Lorestan).
The deluge of Luristan bronzes began in fall 1928 in the sleepy town of Harsin, some 20 miles east of Kermanshah. A local farmer uncovered several beautiful bronze objects in his fields and sold them. Word of his finds spread, and soon the town filled with dealers who bought these works of art and then sold them on to museums and private collections. It was a profitable arrangement that suited many parties, and very little was done to stop it.
Great interest in excavating these bronzes arose among both academics and locals. André Godard, the director of the Iranian Archaeological Service in 1928, described the method used by the locals to detect a site to excavate. First they found a spring. Once that was located, there was a high probability of finding a settlement nearby with a cemetery. The formula was simple and effective: Look for a water source, and an ancient necropolis will not be far away.